Jun 14, 2022 - News

Triangle law enforcement buck national data collection trend

Months of 2021 FBI crime data reported in North Carolina, by agency
Data: FBI, The Marshall Project; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios Visuals

Law enforcement agencies around the Triangle performed better than many counterparts across the country in reporting annual crime statistics to the FBI last year, according to data provided to Axios in partnership with the Marshall Project.

​​Why it matters: Law enforcement agencies in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Durham and others around the Triangle bucked a trend that will result in a data gap that makes it harder to analyze crime trends and fact-check claims politicians make about crime, per The Marshall Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan U.S. criminal justice watchdog.

  • Nearly 40% of law enforcement agencies around the country, including departments in New York City and Los Angeles, did not submit any data in 2021.
  • "It's going to be really hard for policymakers to look at what crime looks like in their own community and compare it to similar communities," Jacob Kaplan, a criminologist at Princeton University, told the Marshall Project.
2021 North Carolina FBI crime data reporting
Data: FBI, The Marshall Project; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios Visuals

By the numbers: In North Carolina, more than half of the roughly 531 jurisdictions submitted crime statistics covering all 12 months of 2021.

  • Durham, Durham County, Apex, Chapel Hill, Orange County, Wake County, Raleigh, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Garner and Holly Springs all submitted 12 months of statistics.

The backdrop: Last year, the FBI retired its nearly century-old national crime data collection program and switched to a new system, the National Incident-Based Reporting System, which gathers more specific information on each incident.

  • The FBI announced the transition years ago and the federal government spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help local police make the switch, yet nearly 7,000 of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies did not send crime data to the voluntary program in 2021.

What they're saying: "Sharing data is sort of our default position, and so sharing better data was important to us," Capt. Joshua Mecimore of the Chapel Hill Police Department told Axios. "That's why we decided to make that move, because we want to be able to share better, more accurate data with our community."

Go deeper: What Can FBI Data Say About Crime in 2021? It’s Too Unreliable to Tell


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